Simon Glendinning – Europe A Philosophical History, Part 1 The Promise of Modernity-Routledge (2021)

Europe: A Philosophical History, Part 1 & 2

Europe is inseparable from its history. That history has been extensively studied in terms of its political history, its economic history, its religious history, its literary and cultural history, and so on. Could there be a distinctively philosophical history of Europe? Not a history of philosophy in Europe, but a history of Europe that focuses on what, in its history and identity, ties it to philosophy.

In the two volumes of Europe: A Philosophical History – The Promise of Modernity and Beyond Modernity – Simon Glendinning takes up this question, telling the story of Europe’s history as a philosophical history.

InPart 1, The Promise of Modernity, Glendinning examines the conception of Europe that links it to ideas of rational Enlightenment and modernity. Tracking this self-understanding as it unfolds in the writings of Kant, Hegel and Marx, Glendinning explores the transition in Europe from a conception of its modernity that was philosophical and religious to one which was philosophical and scientific. While this transition profoundly altered Europe’s own history, Glendinning shows how its self-confident core remained intact in this development. But not for long. This volume ends with an examination of the abrupt shattering of this confidence brought on by the first world-wide war of European origin – and the imminence of a second. The promise of modernity was in ruins. Nothing, for Europe, would ever be the same again.

Part 2: Beyond Modernity is available now from Routledge. In the wake of two world wars of European origin, Europe’s modern promise of universal peace, freedom and well-being for all humanity lay in ruins. In Part 2, Beyond Modernity, Glendinning picks up the story of this promise after the Second World War. Taking in Isaiah Berlin’s defence of a pluralist ideal, Francis Fukuyama’s vision of a new ‘end of history’ in liberal democracy, and Jacques Derrida’s critique of the very idea of an end of history, Glendinning invites us to affirm a new philosophical-historical self-understanding: not the history of the rational animal on the way to its final end, with Europe at the head, but a history of the unpredictably self-transforming animal without a final end. In this context, Glendinning argues, Europe remains promising, its cosmopolitan heritage opening a future beyond its exhausted modernity.